Jagmeet Singh wants to fight. So why does he look so happy?

HALIFAX: The wide expanse of the airport runway was too smooth to resist. Jagmeet Singh had to break his longboard.

With cameras on and staff smiling at him, the NDP leader crossed the airport runway under a steel gray sky, sliding and bowing around the parked bus that would soon take him to an evening election rally in Lower Sackville, a dormitory community. just outside of Halifax.

It was a fitting representation of Singh’s style as a politician and therefore of his party’s campaign in this election: fun-loving, playful, maybe even cool, a physical demonstration of the positive image the party wants to project. .

And yet the NDP campaign is about more than smiles and longboarding.

Hours earlier, Singh stood by a pond lined with rocks and reeds at Quebec’s Sherbrooke University, speaking harsh words about Justin Trudeau’s liberals. Taking advantage of the fact that liberals failed to fire a candidate accused of sexual assault in 2019, Singh took aim at Trudeau’s feminist credentials, accusing his party of failing to show the “courage to stand up to men in positions of power.”

So there it was, a distillation of the central dichotomy of the NDP campaign in this election: a positive stance coupled with sharp criticism from liberals that turns into an attack on Trudeau’s own integrity.

One side “happy”, the other “warrior”.

“When it comes to helping people, when it comes to fighting the climate crisis, when it comes to fighting the housing crisis, when it comes to investing in our healthcare, they know I’m a fighter,” he said. Singh in Sherbrooke. .

“People want someone on their side, someone they can trust, someone who will fight for them,” he said.

For Marie Della Mattia, a top NDP adviser who travels with Singh during the campaign, the two sides of Singh’s political message in this campaign are inseparable: The party cannot replace Trudeau with its vision of better government without criticizing the record. Liberals, he said. said.

“Those two things, for him, go together,” he said. “You cannot be in the business of defending people and what they need, and not be critical of someone who is not fulfilling it. You have to be critical of someone who is not complying.

It is not yet clear whether that happy attacking stance will shift votes to Singh’s party. Polls suggest that the NDP entered the campaign with roughly the same level of support it had in the final days of the race.

However, Della Mattia maintains that the campaign is already a success. The party’s goal was always to define the choice of progressive voters as a simple option, he said. And he felt it had been accomplished.

“We have defined that choice for people in terms of what they get with Jagmeet and what they can lose with Trudeau. And that’s all we have control over, ”he said.

The party is also confident that it will add seats to the 24 it held in the last Parliament. Singh’s tour has spent most of the final week of the campaign on an offensive drive toward his opponents’ constituencies.

On Thursday morning, for example, Singh’s big orange bus screeched to a stop on a quiet residential street in Toronto’s Davenport. Liberals have held the seat there, along with everyone else in the city, since 2015.

Alejandra Bravo, the NDP candidate in Davenport, sees an opportunity to change that. He said the main “wedge problem” in this campaign, which makes a big difference to the liberals, is the NDP’s policies to increase taxes on what Singh calls the “ultra” rich.

It is one of the policies that touches the party’s main attack on Trudeau, who does not have the “courage” to impose policies that the rich and corporations do not want. The NDP, on the other hand, promises a special “wealth tax” and higher taxes on corporations and high-income individuals to raise billions of dollars for programs like pharmaceutical care, dental care, and home construction. affordable.

It has also sparked a new kind of catchphrase for Singh, after Trudeau questioned the government’s wisdom in trying to raise money from the rich with “unlimited zeal.” That has become a catchphrase for Singh, and the party is Offering to sell posters. with the phrase above an image of the leader’s face shooting yellow rays from his eyes.

“People are so upset that they know that the rich are getting richer every day and that workers and communities are losing ground. And that’s what resonates, ”Bravo said on that residential street in Davenport.

Meanwhile, as Singh talked about climate change and affordable housing in a driveway across the street, Ziad and Zilla Akl sipped coffee and watched from their porch.

Zilla, who is a clerk in a Toronto courthouse, said she remembered Singh from more than a decade ago, when he was a criminal defense attorney in the GTA. “He was one of the nicest lawyers I have ever met,” he said with a smile.

Many people seem to have good impressions of Singh. He consistently scores in opinion polls as the friendliest federal leader, and the party has tried to take advantage of this, especially with younger voters through social media platforms geared towards Gen Z and Millennials, such as Twitch and TikTok.

On Wednesday night, for example, Singh sank into a chair in a video game studio in Vaughan and broadcast live to more than 60,000 viewers as he played at drawing a picture of Trudeau’s cartoon with blue lines of tears streaming from his eyes. eyes, “losing the choice.”

The next day, 17-year-old Will Sadler and 16-year-old Lauren Hope stood in a group of people yelling around Singh and taking selfies with him outside a pub in Danforth. Singh walked over to them and they bumped their elbows and talked to him for a moment.

Although they are still unable to vote, Sadler and Hope said they have told their parents to vote for Singh.

“I first became interested in how relaxed it is. And then you listen to their ideas and say, okay, that makes sense, ”said Sadler, who was wearing a Yankees cap and a Blue Jays jacket.

“As young people, you feel a bit off the radar,” Hope added. “But I feel like he’s actually listening.”

Later Thursday afternoon, surrounded by dozens of NDP supporters in a park in Kingston, Ontario, Singh stepped off his tour bus as the campaign song that has been his election soundtrack since his run for the NDP leadership. in 2017: Bunji Garlin’s soca track “Differentology”, with its constant refrain, “We are ready, we are ready, we are ready,” exploded into a sound system installed in the middle of a field.

Suddenly the music died, a temporary glitch. And in the brief silence that followed, amid a crowd of his partisan supporters, Singh danced anyway.

No matter what happens on election night, you can bet he’ll dance then, too.

With files from Raisa Patel


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